With his two boys getting involved in hockey, it was the perfect time for Patrick Rainey to step into an integral role with Fire Wagon Hockey Inc. and the Yellowjackets Hockey Club.
Little did Rainey know or expect that a decade after starting out, he would be on the organization’s operations board.
Rainey took over as executive vice president in fall 2015 for the organization based in Crystal Lake, Illinois. The four previous executive directors all retired at the same time, creating the opening for Rainey.
“I was honored and surprised that they had the confidence in myself and the other three people to put us in that position,” Rainey said. “Being around for so many years, I got to know everyone. It’s definitely a family atmosphere there.”
Rainey started with the organization in 2004 and has coached his sons Patrick Jr., 17, and Nolan, 15, all the way up through the ranks. Fire Wagon Hockey was still in its infancy in the mid-2000s, but Rainey liked how the organization was being run.
“The mission was there,” Rainey said. “We just wanted affordable hockey in a local hockey rink for the kids in the area to come and play.”
Rainey became a board member in 2008, holding that position until he became the executive vice president.
Rainey, 48, enjoys his post in the organization and being a major piece in helping everything run smoothly.
“It’s very enjoyable,” Rainey said. “It’s all about hockey for me. I’ve always been more of the hockey side of most of things as far as programs, coordinating the tryouts, doing some of the spring programming.”
In 2004, there were about 150 members skating for Fire Wagon Hockey. Now, that number has ballooned to 550 players at the Crystal Ice House.
Rainey’s position on the board is centered on overseeing the organization since it’s solidly established.
“The club is doing really well running by itself,” Rainey said. “The four of us still look at finance parts, the hockey programs. We look at the rink as well and kind of oversee the rink maintenance, Zambonis in the building. There’s figure skating clubs as well, so we take a look at that. We work very closely with our hockey director, Steve Martins.”
One of the executive board’s first major decisions when they took over a year-and-a-half ago was to hire the first full-time paid employee on the hockey side — and in stepped Martins. The executive directors follow Martins’ lead closely. He will put together his program ideas and present them to the board.
“We look at their pricing recommendations and then we would approve anything they have or disapprove depending on what they come up with,” Rainey said.
Still staying on the ice
Even though Rainey is busy with his duties as the executive vice president, he is still deeply involved in coaching within the organization. He is currently the assistant coach of an 18U team, which both his sons play on.
Rainey has been there every step of the way either as the head coach or an assistant as his kids worked their way up the hockey ladder.
Coaching has aided Rainey in his position on the executive board. It has shaped how he views certain situations since he has hands-on experience on the ice.
“I still play hockey and I know what hockey’s about,” Rainey said. “I’m more of a hockey guy, so it helps me make some recommendations if a coach is maybe doing the right thing and I can add my input on what I have done in the past. I’m pretty humble as a coach and I try to make sure the kids are having fun and they have a good work ethic.”
Rainey also coordinates events such as USA Hockey’s Try Hockey for Free program. Fire Wagon Hockey tries to run a one-day program multiple times per year to attract more young skaters.
Rainey has a few goals in mind for the organization to help it continue to thrive in northeastern Illinois.
“I’d like to definitely see the club continuing to improve their programs, keep the fees at a reasonable price for anybody that wants to play hockey,” Rainey said. “Honestly, I think the club is really doing well at his point. With 550 kids, we have a strong mite program coming up. Just to kind of keep it going the way it was when my kids were there.”